At the end of our recent trip to California (which I will share soon!), we had a pretty bad travel day getting home. It was Easter Sunday and my dad has been ill, so I already had quite a bit of anxiety about his health and sadness about being away from my family for the holiday. After taking our time getting to the airport because we gave ourselves a cushion, we missed the checked bag cutoff time by 5 minutes and were not allowed to take our flight at noon. We had to take a flight 4 hours later than planned, a shift that isn’t awesome at any time but is especially not awesome with a 3-year-old and an infant. So many things went wrong that day, starting with the missed flight and continuing with blowout diapers, missed naps and meltdowns, even getting stuck on the tarmac for an extra 30 minutes when we finally landed in Utah. It got to the point where I was just expecting things to go wrong. More than once, I just wished the day was over and we could start over the next day.
After we finally deplaned around 11pm, we made our way toward the baggage claim area. Oden was beyond overtired, delirious and unable to listen. Mo had given up hours ago but was slumped asleep over my shoulder, refusing to sleep in the car seat on the stroller. John and I were not really talking to each other, just trying to get through the last hard hour, which would involve picking up our large luggage and Oden’s car seat from baggage claim, juggling the whole circus onto the bus shuttle to the economy car lot, installing both car seats, and driving the 45 minutes up to Park City before we could get the kids (and ourselves) to bed.
We tucked into the elevator with another woman we’d seen on our flight from San Francisco. She had her son with her, who looked to be about one year old, and was as disheveled as I felt. We’d helped her earlier when she was confused what to do with her stroller at the gate and I’d remembered thinking that this must be her first time traveling with baby gear. As we all stuffed into the elevator, I kind of gave that knowing mom-to-mom look, like, “Isn’t this hard? The things we do…” Then she told us with an accent that she had just flown from South Korea with her son solo and then had a 4-hour layover in SFO before boarding the plane to SLC that we’d shared. Whoa. Immediately, my perspective changed. Our longest flight of the day was about 2 hours long and felt nearly unbearable. Our layover in SFO was less than 2 hours and felt nearly unbearable. This woman, traveling alone with her baby, had a much harder trip than we’d had. I was thinking about all of this when we arrived at the baggage claim area. There she was, bags dropped to the ground, her arms wrapped tightly around the neck of a man I assumed was her husband. He was now holding the baby and had his head buried in the side of her neck as he hugged her back. My tired eyes filled with tears as I imagined the relief she felt to be in his arms and have help. She’d made it.
That last hour was as challenging as we expected it would be, narrowly avoiding an Oden tantrum on the crowded shuttle and then trying to soothe a hungry, tired, teething infant. My poor, confused, tired toddler cried about being too cold in the parking lot while John battled with the car seat installation. As we pulled onto the freeway, Oden passed out but Mo started screaming. The icing on the cake was when a car pulled into our lane and almost hit us! It was after 1am before Oden was tucked into bed and I laid down to rest, so thankful that the day was over and we could start anew the next day. I thought about the South Korean woman and how she must feel after her epic trip alone with her child. I thought about that emotion-filled greeting I’d witnessed with her husband. I thought about how excited she must have been in that elevator we’d shared, knowing how close she was to the end of a hard day or two and about to get the reward she’d traveled for. Yes, our day had been very challenging, but I’m sure it felt much worse because I had chosen to focus on all of the bad things. What a great lesson in perspective!
Sometimes our own little bubble is all we can see. A bigger-picture view would reveal something different (and probably not so bad). I’m reminded of a quote from my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.” From the onset, I’d expected things to be bad, and guess what? They were. What if I’d tried to find the good parts of the day? They were there! Like the smiles coming from strangers as they pointed at Oden pulling his own suitcase through the airport, or the joy in Oden’s face riding the moving sidewalks and escalators, or the little snore that came out of Mo while he slept on the second flight, or the fact that we had the whole seat row to ourselves to spread out in for both flights, or the sweet 20-something girls sitting behind Oden that played peek-a-boo with him over and over again. If I’d taken time to focus on those little moments, the day likely would have felt very different.
As we spend the next few days regrouping from vacation mode, I’ll be thankful for that reminder: ”When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Which perspective are you going to choose today?